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Monday, September 7, 2009

Handkerchief (saputangan in Malay)

As a decorative accessory for a suit pocket
He still carries a handkerchief
Photo with his permission

Man carried a handkerchief in his pocket and a lady had one in her handbag. That was some time ago. Handkerchief is made of materials such as cotton, silk, linen or synthetic fabric. Man's handkerchief is 18 inches square and is either plain or with printed designs. A lady's handkerchief is smaller and is plain, lace or with embrodery. Handkerchief has brand and the most popular was Pyramid brand a product of Tootle.

A handkerchief was commonly used to wipe the face or blow the nose. When a person got a cold and sneezed continously his handkerchief would be soaking wet and was most unhygienic.
It was also used for the following purposes:
1 To wipe away sweats or drops of tears.
2 As a decorative accessory in a suit pocket.
3 To chope (reserve) seat in a cinema by tying it on the seat handle
4 Waving a handkerchief to bade farewell or good-bye
5 Waving a white handkerchief as an indication to surrender.
6 As a tourniquet for the wounded and others

I used a handkerchief until the second half of 1970. Initially I felt awkward to change to paper handkerchief or tissues. After some time I got used to it. Now I carry packet tissues in my pocket. An 80 year old friend still carries a handkerchief in his pocket as in the picture above.

Superstitious Chinese do not give handkerchief as a gift to a friend or relative. It means good-bye, farewell or parting forever.

There is a very popular Indonesian love song called 'Saputangan' or handkerchief. Elderly Peranakans love to sing it. Click here to listen.


yg said...

i stopped carrying a handkerchief a few years ago. paper tissue is more hygienic, provided it is properly disposed of. it has other uses.

Thimbuktu said...

Unlike yg, I have not changed or upgraded to the use of paper tissue. I have been carrying a handkerchief in my trouser pocket for as long as I could remember. I use it to wipe my mouth, and sweat from my forehead (my entire head now that I'm bald ; ) whenever I perspire. I don't use it to blow my nose though.

Good thing you mentioned that the handkerchief should not be presented as a gift according to Chinese belief. It may be mistaken as giving the handkerchief for wiping away tears.

Incidentally, I just told a non-Chinese friend about this and she had a culture shock...

Dan said...

I recall the brand Tootal, which was very popular in the old days, for their range of scarves. In fact, when I was a boy, I used to wear a Tootal cravat, around my neck, when attending an occassional party. It was passed down by my grandfather - navy blue with white polka dots. I cannot find it now in my closet - must have been given away or misplaced.

I recall that handkerchiefs served other minor purposes during my younger days.

1) folded to cover one's eyes when playing Blind Man's Bluff.

2) folded in half, shaped to a triangle, to cover one's nose and mouth, when playing Cowboys and Indians.

3) tied at one end into a knot and dapped with drops of Shilling oil, to be inhaled when one had a cold and stuffy nose.

4) ladies without pockets on their dresses, would tie their money (coins) with handkerchiefs, at one end.

5) Tied into knots at the four ends, to be used as a cap on rainy days.

6) Folded up and inserted behind one's nape, between the shirt collar, as a fashion statement or to prevent the collar being dirtied easily. During those days, we do not change our school uniforms daily. Maybe, a change of clothes, every other day.

I still carry a handkerchief to wipe my perspiration. (Old habits die hard). On top of this, I also carry a packet of tissues in my back pocket, for the purpose of wiping my mouth after meals.

PChew said...

Thank you Dan for the imputs. Now I remember all that you have stated.

Andy Young* said...

Oh yes sir,
And to use it as a weapon. I remember receiving a sharp sting on my calf from a bully at school. The trick is to wind it between two ends triangular-wise, use it as a whip and aim it at someone's back or legs.

The more wicked chaps would wet the handkerchief; the sting is terrible.